Potty Training: When to Start

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 09, 2022

Month 19


By now, you've probably changed thousands of dirty diapers. You're more than ready for your toddler to start potty training. But is she ready?

Going to the bathroom seems simple. But for a toddler, it takes a combination of coordinated skills she might not have yet.

Here's what your child needs to know before she can master the potty:

  • How it feels when she needs to use the bathroom
  • How to connect that feeling with the need to use a toilet
  • How to make it to the bathroom without getting distracted along the way
  • How to walk to the potty, take off their pants and sit down
  • When to tell a parent or caregiver that they need to use the potty

Many kids may not be ready to start potty training until age 2 and a half or 3. But you can at least lay the foundations; remember, this is not a race but another milestone that varies with age.

Start talking about the body and the process of going to the bathroom. Have them sit on the potty so they are comfortable with it by the time they are ready to start training. It may also be helpful for them to watch a parent or other children use the toilet.

Get your child comfortable with the potty. Let her sit on the toilet, play with the toilet paper, read a story, or flush and watch the water circle around the bowl

Your Toddler's Development This Month

When your toddler throws a ball or fits a round peg into a hole, they're not just playing around. They're learning important skills that will help them develop and grow.

Playtime teaches kids:

  • Physical skills like balance and coordination that will help them run, jump, and kick
  • Fine motor skills, including how to grasp small objects and fit them together
  • How to explore and use their imagination

Encourage these skills by making creative play a big part of your child's day.

Month 19 Development Tips

  • Spend 30 minutes each day doing an activity together. Also give your child an hour of free play (it doesn't have to be all at once) for them to explore as they please -- while supervised, of course.
  • When buying shoes, look for a comfortable sneaker or walking shoe that fits your child well, gives foot and ankle support, and yet is flexible enough to let their feet move and breathe.
  • Get your child comfortable with the potty. Let them sit on the toilet, play with the toilet paper, read a story, or flush and watch the water circle around the bowl. But never leave them alone near the toilet. There is a real risk of them falling in and drowning with their head submerged.
  • Never leave a toddler alone in the tub -- even for a minute -- not even with an older sibling.
  • If you have older children, make sure you give all your kids special time every day so no one feels left out.
  • Remember, you need to rest and recharge. Obviously, you don't have tons of time. But even taking a couple of deep breaths may help.
  • Simplify your breakfast routine. Stock your pantry and fridge with easy-to-assemble, healthy breakfast foods like whole-grain cereals, wheat bread, and fruit.
  • Be sure that your home is childproof. Put locks on all cabinets. Remove dangling cords and plug outlets. Keep pot handles facing inward on the stove. Keep bathroom and bedroom doors closed. Put baby gates across stairways (both at the top and bottom). Be on the lookout for choking hazards and remove them, and make sure you lock up all cleaning products.

Show Sources


American Academy of Pediatrics: "Cognitive and Verbal Skills Needed for Toilet Training."

Nemours Foundation: "Toddlers: Learning by Playing."

Nemours Foundation: "Childproofing and Preventing Household Accidents."

Nemours Foundation: "Breakfast Basics."

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